Power slices points gap to 47 as Pagenaud has tough Toronto day

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TORONTO – With his third win in four races, and points leader Simon Pagenaud’s fourth finish of ninth or worse in his last six races, Will Power has come from no points scored to within 47 of Pagenaud with just five races remaining in the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Following the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, when Pagenaud won his third straight race this year, Power was 10th in points and 137 behind Pagenaud.

After today’s Honda Indy Toronto, Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is now just 47 behind after making up 90 points since.

As Power explained in the post-race press conference, you can gain points in one huge swing – or you can keep chipping away at it thanks to wins and great results (and first, first, second and first in the last four races nearly mirrors Pagenaud’s second, second, first, first, first run to start the year).

“Dixon has been the example of that year after year,” Power explained. “He said to me the other day, with six to go, he was 90 back. Just shows you how quickly that can change. He’s got to keep at it and not get desperate.

As a note on that, Dixon was 92 points back of Helio Castroneves after the Iowa Corn 300 in 2013 with what was nine races – including two doubleheader weekends (Toronto, Houston) – left in that season. But he made up the difference and won the title.

Pagenaud’s day, meanwhile, was an exercise in frustration and a roller coaster of positions.

The driver of the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet started from third, led his lone lap of the race on Lap 27, then recycled back to second for most of the next stint before things got hairy after the Josef Newgarden accident on Lap 58 that brought out the fourth yellow flag period of the race.

Pagenaud was one of seven drivers who were yet to pit and as a result he fell from second to 14th after he did stop. By the finish, he’d made it back to ninth, albeit not without controversy.

Jack Hawksworth told NBC Sports post-race that he’d been hit by Pagenaud, but an inquiry to INDYCAR Race Control said it produced no video evidence of clear contact between Pagenaud and Hawksworth at Turn 5.

At the time of incident on Lap 82, Hawksworth was ninth and Pagenaud 10th, but the incident dropped Hawksworth to 21st while Pagenaud leapt to ninth.

In a post-race quote issued from Team Penske, Pagenaud explained his day, but not the Hawksworth incident:

“The PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet was much stronger than what the results showed,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate. I was really happy that I was able to run second for most of the race. We trimmed the car great midway through the race and it was really strong at the end, but unfortunately we got caught on the last yellow and that shuffled us to the back.

“We were able to get back inside the top 10 which was a great performance. We lost quite a bit of points today, but over the performance is there. It’s there every week. That’s the silver lining to see how competitive we are. So, we go to Mid-Ohio which is a track that suits very well. I’m very excited about it.”

Meanwhile Power said while he’s let the races come to him, he’s letting the points take care of themselves.

“How do you know where he’s going to finish and where you’re going to finish? You just have to execute week in and week out,” he explained in the post-race press conference.

“Yeah, you can look at the points at the end of each weekend, but it’s absolutely the wrong focus to be looking at points. You know your limits. You know your risks. You know what is a 50/50 move. You know when to take those risks. If you’re taking them all the time, you’re going to get caught out half the time or more. If you do it at a time when it’s necessary to take that risk, you have a good chance of pulling it off. That’s how you got to do it.”

The Team Penske trio tops the standings because behind Pagenaud and Power, Helio Castroneves sits third with 358 points.

Dixon, after his own fraught day, is fourth on 349 points with Newgarden down to fifth on 344 points. With a 21st or 22nd place finish looming at Texas and a did not finish to be registered, for all intents and purposes, today marked the end of Newgarden’s realistic title hopes for 2016 – even if he stays mathematically eligible down to the wire.

The top 10 in points is below:

1. Simon Pagenaud, 432
2. Will Power, 385
3. Helio Castroneves, 358
4. Scott Dixon, 349
5. Josef Newgarden, 344
6. Tony Kanaan, 339
7. Alexander Rossi, 300
8. James Hinchcliffe, 299
9. Charlie Kimball, 294
10. Carlos Munoz, 293

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”